Fight the Good Fight!
1 Timothy 6:12 admonishes us to “fight the good fight of faith.” The book of Joshua gives the history of Israel’s entrance into and a conquest of the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. Canaan is not a type of heaven, but a type of spiritual Christian usefulness. Reviewing Israel's experiences covering their deliverance from Egypt, to the conquering of Canaan and how these apply to the Christian life is beneficial to us. There are three stages in all.
First we see the people of Israel in Egypt. They were slaves and had to be submissive to their slave masters, the Egyptians. They were not free, but under rules and regulations imposed by the Egyptian Pharaoh. Some Christians are still in that condition spiritually. They try to make themselves live a godly life by following certain rules and regulations instead of allowing Christ to indwell them and live through them.
The second stage involves Israel's emancipation from Egypt and their deliverance at the Red Sea. Connected with this is their stay in the desert which lasted for 40 years. In this situation the people were a burden to God and to Moses instead of burden bearers. This can be true also of us who are Christians. We can burden others around us, perhaps our church leaders or our friends, instead of helping to carry the burden. In their desert experience the Israelites were self-centred and largely useless to God. They constantly defended their own wrongdoing and considered little beyond their own self-interests.
It was not until they entered the land under Joshua’s leadership that they became spiritual warriors and went on from victory to victory. This marks the third stage. They turned from being on the defensive to going on the offensive against the enemy.
There are two basic truths taught in the book of Joshua. One is that Jehovah-God is a “man of war.” The second is that “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
Many recoil from the first proposition that God is a God of war. Joshua and the Israelites were severely criticized by some, for in conquering and destroying the Canaanites they are thought to be out of harmony with the teaching of the Bible that God is a God of love. This is a frequent criticism of the book of Joshua itself.
Let's look at it from the other side: How can God be a God of love and not be a God of wrath against sin? The fact is, if He were not a God of wrath upon sin, He could not be a God of love. Sin is at the bottom of all the worlds problems. Righteousness is the opposite of sin and only as righteousness takes the place of sin, will the world’s great problems be solved. This in itself is a condemnation of sin. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
We can thank God that day is coming when Jesus Christ will finish the judgment of sin and establish righteousness in the earth. But we are not in that day as yet. God’s program now is to show us how we can live victoriously in a world of turmoil with its many problems and troubles. We are to be a people of love, but there can be no true kingdom of love without sin being properly condemned and dealt with.
The reason we did not see this readily or at all is that man has such a low concept of sin which is due to a lack of knowledge of God’s holiness. In order to understand the awfulness of sin we need to know more about the holiness of God. If we would see how great sin is, we must not compare sin with sinners or sinner with sinner, but compare the sinner with God who is absolutely holy.
The exceeding sinfulness of sin is clearly shown in the fact that God gave His Son for our sins. He even forsook Him to the wrath of man and for judgment of our sin—your sin and mine. The wickedness of sin can only be fully realized the light of the price that was paid to provide salvation from sin. We begin to see something of that magnitude of the love of God as He reveals His wrath upon sin by sending His own Son to die for sinners.
From comparing Genesis 15:13-18, it is evident in scripture that God, in His long-suffering was going to give the residents of Canaan an opportunity to change their evil ways. In His grace He gave them more than 400 years, but they did not repent.
Israel did not come into the land under the impulse a desire for conquest. Essentially they came as the executioners of God’s divine wrath against people so vile that the only course open to God was to judge them. We have seen the necessity of this before. God came and spoke in His wrath at the flood and destroyed a whole civilization for their sins. There were other times when He sent pestilences or earthquakes as judgments upon groups of people. God is no respecter of persons; He has pointed out in His Word the future judgments that will come upon the race, judgments not on mere localities, but on the entire earth. The cup of sin for this world is fast reaching the full mark.
God is no respecter of persons. He was has severe against Israel's sins as He was against those of other nations. It is true that He chose Israel, a small nation, through whom He could manifest His grace. This was God’s doing. He is sovereign and has the right to deal with nations and with individuals in mercy, but His extending of mercy depends on their response to Him. To those who claim His mercy, He shows mercy. To those who rebel, He judges. God, being righteous, is against sin and cannot tolerate it.
Peter warned that judgment must begin at the house of God so that even those on whom God has showered His grace cannot expect Him to close His eyes to anything evil that they do. The people of Israel found that they reaped what they sowed. Never once did God condone their sins even though He had call them to fulfill certain tasks for Him.
Though Israel enjoyed the great victory at Jericho, she suffered defeat before Ai because of Achan’s sin. Until that sin was probably taken cared of—exposed, confessed and repudiated—Israel could not be victorious.
In the book of Judges we find that some 14 times judgments were poured out on Israel for her sins during a period of some 400 years. Time and again various parts of the nation were put under captivity and then delivered as God raised up judges to represent Him.
God is not mocked. “Whatever a man or a nation sows that man or nation will reap” (Galatians 6:7). Israel was warned and the church is warned. God will not tolerate sin. He will not let any of us get away with it.
So the history recorded in the book of Joshua shows us that God wars against sin. He shows how sin must be dealt with from His standpoint and ours. Then he goes on to declare how God gives victories to the person who would dare stand with God and for God. God is always at war with sin. Consequently, Israel’s entering into the land and overcoming its inhabitants was in line with this principle that God follows. At the same time, Israel as a conquering nation in Canaan, provides a wonderful type of our spiritual warfare and conquest over sin in our daily lives and the entering into our spiritual possessions in Christ.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7.